New testing method produces hydrogen gas from tidal energy

Posted 6 December 2017

Tidal energy
The European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) has successfully produced hydrogen gas with electricity garnered from tidal energy, establishing the potential for a carbon-neutral fuel source to power vehicles. 

Based in Orkney, Scotland, the EMEC tidal energy test site’s prototype converters feed power into an electrolyser next to its onshore substation. 

The electrolyser then uses the electricity generated from tidal energy to split water into its components – hydrogen and oxygen – and has the capacity to generate up to 220kg of hydrogen in 24 hours. 
EMEC Managing Director Neil Kermode told the International Water Association (IWA) that the original plan for installing the electrolyser was to take pressure off the grid. But now, clean hydrogen production has become a major focus for the centre. 

“The electrolyser was set up to pilot the production of hydrogen fuel from tidal energy, and now we’ve done just that,” he said. 

“While the initial driver behind buying an electrolyser was to provide a storage solution to circumvent local grid constraints, the purchase has sparked other pioneering projects around Orkney looking to use hydrogen in various means. 

“We’re now looking towards the development of a hydrogen economy in Orkney,” he added. 

The Scottish Government has invested £3 million towards the project, and Scottish Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said he looks forward to seeing how hydrogen contributes to the country’s future renewable energy mix. 

“This innovative project… will help to partially overcome grid constraints in the Orkney Islands by enabling the storage of excess tidal power generated and using that electricity to produce hydrogen,” he said. 

“The project also adds to our growing understanding of the potential role of hydrogen in Scotland’s future energy system, something we have committed to exploring in our draft Energy Strategy.”

In Australia, tidal electricity generation got a push from the Australian Government recently, with its commitment to invest in a new feasibility study.

Established in July, the project, “Tidal Energy in Australia: Assessing Resource and Feasibility to Australia’s Future Energy Mix”, is led by the Australian Maritime College at the University of Tasmania in partnership with CSIRO and University of Queensland, and is expected to cost $5.85 million in total. 
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